Notes From The Field: Pillow Talk

June 4, 2012

By Cheryl Katz

There were many objects to get excited about, even obsess over, at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javits Center. But when I left the fair and headed uptown to the Met to see the Costume Institute’s current show, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, it was Charlene Mullen‘s hand-embroidered pillow collection for De La Espada that stood out. In fact, it wasn’t until I was actually in the museum that I could stop thinking about them.

Charlene Mullen: Walk the Line pillow for De La Espada. Photo courtesy of De La Espada

What was it about these pillows that I found so seductive? Was it the Ukrainian folk costume inspiration? The expressive contoured lines fashioned from thick, braided tapestry wool? Or was it the monochromatic palette, punctuated by hits of bold yellow and red details, that held such appeal?

Charlene Mullen: Big Dipper pillow for De La Espada. Photo courtesy of De La Espada

And then, amid the many covetable items on display at the Costume Institute’s exhibit, I saw this crisp, white, boat-necked shirt with its brightly embroidered dancing monkeys and blue bananas. The shirt, which is in the aptly titled Naif Chic section of the show, possesses both a sense of extreme sophistication and childlike whimsy–not unlike Charlene Mullen’s pillows.

Monkey and banana embroidered ensemble from the Prada Spring 2011 ready to wear collection. Photo by Monica Feudi/

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